SUMMER education programmes are to be expanded for pupils with complex special educational needs and those at greatest risk of educational disadvantage with up to €40m funding being made available.
The Minister for Education Norma Foley TD and Minister of State with responsibility for Special Education Josepha Madigan TD have announced the provision of expanded summer education programmes for pupils with complex special educational needs and those at greatest risk of educational disadvantage, as a Covid-19 pandemic response measure, for this summer.
The total funding available to provide the programme is up to €40 million, a one hundred per cent increase on the allocation for summer provision in 2020.
Minister Foley said: “This is an incredibly important Government decision, to significantly expand the summer programme as a specific response to the pandemic, and offer important education provision this summer to children who really need it.
"Despite the best efforts of everyone to support and engage with remote learning, not being in school has many adverse consequences.
"Evidence indicates that it particularly impacts children with complex special educational needs and those at greatest risk of educational disadvantage,” she said.
Minister Madigan said: “It is the largest summer programme there has ever been and for the first time, every student with complex needs across all primary and post-primary schools will be eligible to take part.
“The summer programme has become an important part of special education provision in Ireland. I am delighted that this year’s programme recognises the diversity of needs that exists in Ireland, across our special schools, special classes, and mainstream classes.
"This programme and the funding that goes with it demonstrates the commitment of the Government to backing special education and ensuring that every student gets the support they need,” she added.
The programme’s aims are to support pupils to re-engage with education, to build their confidence and increase their motivation, promote wellbeing and for some who are at key transition stages, help to ensure they can move on to their planned educational placement next September along with their peers.
For the first time ever, all schools both primary and post-primary are encouraged to provide summer programmes and the eligibility criteria have been extended to include post-primary children with complex needs and children at risk of educational disadvantage.
Prior to this expansion summer programmes were only available to special schools and pupils in special classes in primary schools and in DEIS schools.
A home-based summer programme will continue to be available for children with complex needs where their schools are not providing a school-based programme.
The programmes for mainstream students in primary and post-primary schools are new programmes for 2021, building upon previous summer programmes in DEIS schools and the programmes for pupils with special educational needs last year.
Enhanced measures have been put in place to encourage the participation of schools in this process, including reducing the administrative process, provision of funding to schools towards preparation and overseeing of the programmes, earlier payment of school staff and provision to recruit final year student teachers graduating this summer.
Pupils with complex needs who have transport provided on the Special Educational Needs School Transport Scheme during the school year and are attending the school-based programme in either a primary or a special school will be provided with transport.
Separately, following a Government decision today, the Department of Education will also confirm to schools that for the 2021/22 school year there will be no change to the model of allocation of special needs assistants.
The introduction of the front-loaded model for the allocation of special needs assistants will be deferred to the commencement of the 2022/23 school year.
This has occurred as during the pandemic period it has not been possible to provide the necessary information and training to support the implementation of the new model in schools.
SNA allocations for the 2021/22 school year will be based on the actual number of SNAs employed by a school on April 30 2021 and the allocation on that date will be rolled over into 2021/22.
No school will receive a reduced allocation and there will be scope for additionality under an exceptional review process to be delivered by the National Council for Special Education (NCSE).